Augusto Farfus brought SEAT's qualification dominance to an abrupt halt as he snatched pole position for round seven of the World Touring Car Championship around the streets of Pau.

A big contrast to his fortunes in qualifying at the French circuit last year when he dramatically flipped his BMW 320si, Farfus crept ahead of Yvan Muller after a session that looked like was heading the Frenchman's way again.

However, while Farfus will begin the rolling start for tomorrow's first race from the top spot, he will still have to contend with an Armada of Leon TDIs behind him, with Muller leading Jordi Gene, Gabriele Tarquini and Rickard Rydell in second, third, fourth and fifth.

With qualifying delayed to repair several barriers that were damaged during the preceding Formula 3 Euroseries race, the drivers nonetheless got the chance to experience the track in dry conditions for the first time this weekend.

However, while many were expecting the recent weight alterations to slow SEAT down and allow BMW and Chevrolet back up the order, there was little evidence that Muller heeding that version of the speculation when he hit the front early on.

Indeed, with the conditions improving over the course of the extended 45-minute session, Muller, Farfus and Gene all shared the top spot in the early stages, before Muller forged ahead again with 25 minutes remaining.

It looked like he'd done enough too, only for Farfus to claw back the initiative in the latter stages with a lap that undercut Muller's by 0.020secs. The result marks the first non-SEAT pole position of the season.

Still, the Spanish marque are well represented in the leading positions, with four of their five works drivers filling out the remainder of the top five. The remaining TDI driver, Tiago Monteiro, will start ninth.

Having dominated the first race last year, Chevrolet will be disappointed with a best of sixth on the grid, that coming courtesy of Valencia winner Rob Huff, but it was enough to out-qualify Andy Priaulx, the reigning champion bouncing back in seventh after a crash in morning practice.

Larini will start eighth, while Jorg Muller rounds out the top ten.

Unsurprisingly there were a number of incidents around the tight street confines, the most high-profile being 2007 winner Alain Menu, who heavily damaged the left-hand side of his Lacetti in a crash with 15 minutes to go. Even so, despite missing the remainder of the session, he will start 11th.

James Thompson was another to clobber the barriers, although he got away with just a smashed window to place his sole Honda Accord 14th on the grid.

In the Independents Trophy, invitational newcomer Oscar Nogues - who gets his one-off drive as a prize for winning the SEAT Leon Supercopa in Valencia - will start from pole position in his SUNRED SEAT Leon.

He is followed on the grid by the BMW pairing Stefano D'Aste and Franz Engstler.